The Election Commission has rescheduled Assembly Elections in West Bengal’s Samserganj constituency on May 13. According to the Islamic calendar, this is the day Eid will most probably be celebrated in India. It is noteworthy that Samserganj is located in the Muslim dominated Murshidabad district, which makes this either an epic faux pas by the EC, or yet another example of the EC passing orders that allegedly suit the politics of the regime at the centre.
Rescheduling was necessitated in wake of the death of Rezaul Haque, the Congress candidate from the constituency due to Covid-19 on April 15. After his death, in fact, most parties and independents had appealed to the EC to club the last two phases of the election in wake of the spread of the Coronavirus. The second surge has been devastating for the entire country with over one lakh new cases of infection being reported every day. But the matter is particularly critical in West Bengal where Assembly Elections are taking place in eight phases, of which only five have concluded. According to The Telegraph, RSP’s Jangipur (Murshidabad) candidate Pradip Nandy and Trinamul’s Goalpokhor (North Dinajpur) candidate Gulam Rabbani and Jalpaiguri nominee P.K. Burma, are all Covid positive.
But the EC not only shot down the plea to club the phases, it has now rescheduled elections in line with provisions of Section 52 (1) of the Representation of People Act, 1951. According to this section:
(1) If a candidate set up by a recognised political party,—
(a) dies at any time after 11.00 A.M. on the last date for making nominations and his nomination is found valid on scrutiny under section 36; or
(b) whose nomination has been found valid on scrutiny under section 36 and who has not withdrawn his candidature under section 37, dies, and in either case, a report of his death is received at any time before the publication of the list of contesting candidates under section 38; or
(c) dies as a contesting candidate and a report of his death is received before the commencement of the poll, the returning officer shall, upon being satisfied about the fact of the death of the candidate, by order, announce an adjournment of the poll to a date to be notified later and report the fact to the Election Commission and also to the appropriate authority: Provided that no order for adjourning a poll should be made in a case referred to in clause (a) except after the scrutiny of all the nominations including the nomination of the deceased candidate.
But it is the date of the rescheduled election that needs closer scrutiny. Eid is celebrated at the end of the holy month of Ramzan based on the sighting of the moon. At present, the day of Eid is calculated to begin on the evening of May 12 and end on the evening of May 13. Though the public holiday is scheduled for May 14. According to West Bengal government’s own website, the public holiday for Eid ul Fitr is May 14.
Either way, it would have served the electorate better had a different date altogether had been chosen, preferably after Eid, especially given the demography of the region.
The entire notification may be viewed here: